Ten lessons for future champions inspired by the life of Ayrton Senna

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Ayrton Senna, Brazilian F1 hero. Ayrton Senna Institute

1. The three-time world champion (his titles obtained in 1988, 90 and 91, with runner-up finishes in 1989 and 93) viewed his work as a big group effort. “No one person has merit in Formula One,” he once said. “It’s the mechanics, the designers, the sponsors, who pay for the equipment. Suppliers of engines, of tires — basically, a collection of people.” Understand BJJ as a collective effort, and you will have a greater chance of succeeding.

2. Don’t be at the gym in body alone. As Senna would say, doing something halfway is ineffective. “I try my best in everything I do. It’s my temperament — I can’t do anything halfway. When I set out to do something, I go all the way and give it my best.”

3. What Ayrton Senna (1960–1994) really loved was training. “The best thing is driving during the qualifying sessions. That’s where I experience the feeling of the limit — braking ten meters after the entry to the turn and, if the car resists, go a bit beyond that next time, step harder on the gas. It’s at qualifying that I feel the wheel in my hands, the pressure of the pedals. Driving on the limit is what gives me pleasure. During the race you can’t do that, because what’s most important is to keep your position. You can’t risk spinning on the turn.”

4. Senna was a master of keeping his head empty as he competed. “During those two hours of race, I don’t think about anything. My mind is going a thousand miles an hour, but absolutely focused on the race. The driver is completely bound inside the car, held fast by the abdomen, legs and arms, controlling their breathing. During a race I reach the limit of my physical and psychological resistance. I only feel emotions after passing the finish line.”

5. Senna always had the support of his family to compete. Another ingredient he deemed crucial to his success was passion. “My job,” he said, “is also my leisure.”

6. Before becoming a champion for the first time, Senna used to say, “I think I’m going in the right direction, but I still have a long way to go,” as he told reporter Maurício Cardoso of Veja magazine. Train hard and use this as a mantra.

7. Turn difficulties and obstacles into your own personal trumps, like Ayrton did when racing in the rain.

8. “When I don’t have practice scheduled on the race course, I take care of my machine, doing gymnastics,” he’d say, indicating that a champion is made up of 24 daily hours of dedication.

9. Senna’s first race took place when he was 13. His first world championship came at 28. Have patience. He preached to be calm and hit the brakes on anxiety.

10. Senna understood like few others that life goes by fast. So work hard, be gentle, focus on your goals, and pursue victory to the end. And that’s how you’ll be remembered. “We are insignificant. Try as you might to program your life, everything can change at any moment.”

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